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page updated: 10/3/05



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 9/19/05 - 8/29/05)


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9/19/05

Morning, everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend. I'm still sitting here on Monday morning scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell happened to my suddenly 0-2 Minnesota Vikings. Hey... what are you gonna do? At least the Packers are 0-2 as well.

We've got some of those new DVD reviews we promised you on Friday. Peter Schorn checks in this morning with his thoughts on Disney and Pixar's Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition, as well as 20th Century Fox's Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. Also today, our own Adam Jones delivers his take on Capital Entertainment's Jamie's Kitchen: The Complete TV Series and also Sony's new The Karate Kid: Special Edition. All four titles are now available in stores.

Now then... I'm off to the Digital Hollywood conference here in L.A. this afternoon, to check out the latest with the developing HD-DVD format (Blu-ray Disc, to my knowledge, isn't going to be there, but if it is I'll be sure to check it out as well). I'll be back tomorrow morning to fill you all in on that.

We have lots more DVD reviews coming for you in the next few days, from Adam Jahnke, Barrie Maxwell, Todd Doogan and even a new member of our staff as well. Heck, I might even pitch in a few myself.

Also, we're going to have more information for you tomorrow on forthcoming and recent retailer-exclusive bonus DVDs. That's coming from Russell Hammond, so be sure to watch for it.

Stay tuned...

9/16/05

Well... I had planned on making a second update last night, and then posting a number of DVD reviews today, but the messy business of life got in the way as it often has a tendency to do. Ah well. What can you really do but roll with it?

Anyway, we're going save up the those reviews for next week. Trust me when I say that I've got new DVD reviews from virtually the entire writing Bits staff - TONS of them. So we'll be back in the wee early hours of Monday morning to start posting them.

In the meantime, we've got some DVD release news to report. First up, there's new announcements from Miramax. The studio will debut The Great Raid on DVD on 12/20. There will be two versions of the film on disc - a standard edition (SRP $29.99) and The Great Raid: Unrated Director's Cut - Miramax Collector's Series (SRP $39.99). We'll post details on features and extras when they come in.

Miramax has also announced The Yards: Director's Cut for 12/13 (SRP $19.99), with Secuestro Express following on 1/3 (SRP $29.99).

Fans of director Terry Gilliam will be glad to know that Dimension will release The Brothers Grimm on both DVD & UMD format on 12/20 (DVD SRP $29.99). Also look for the studio to release Robert Rodriguez's Roadracers on 12/23 ($29.99). Again, we'll post details on the features as they come in.

Meanwhile, you TV DVD connoisseurs will be happy to hear that Universal has set 11/22 as the street date for their 3-disc Miami Vice: Season Two (SRP $59.98). Video will be in the original full frame, with audio remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sole bonus feature will be the Ride with Vice featurette, which "takes you on a behind-the-scenes journey into the world of the "real life" Miami Vice Squad." The Season Two episodes reportedly include "Phil Collins, U2, Eric Clapton, Huey Lewis & The News, The Who, Fleetwood Mac and many more!" in their soundtracks, so it looks like Universal's ponied up for the license fees needed to do the music on these episodes right. We shall see...

We've got street dates for you for all of Criterion's thus-far-announced DVD releases for October, November and December. Look for the Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Classics Box Set on 10/4, including Samurai Rebellion, Sword of the Beast, Kill! and Samurai Spy. Le samouraï and The Wages of Fear will follow on 10/18. Pickpocket and Ugetsu are expected on 11/8, with The Tales of Hoffmann and Ran due on 11/22. Finally, look for both Shoot the Piano Player and Forbidden Games on 12/6.

Speaking of Criterion, we'd like to congratulate everyone over at the Collection. The company was honored with a Silver Medallion last weekend at the Telluride Film Festival for their work. Well done!

We have a little more UMD news for you today as well. 20th Century Fox will release Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) and Like Mike on 12/20. Also, Image has the anime Galerians: Rion set for 10/25. We've updated the UMD Release List with these titles (and the aforementioned Brothers Grimm) accordingly.

We'll leave you this week with a look at the cover art for Miramax's The Great Raid: Unrated Director's Cut - Miramax Collector's Series, Dimension's The Brothers Grimm and Disney's Sky High (11/29)...

The Great Raid: Unrated Director's Cut - Miramax Collector's SeriesThe Brothers GrimmSky High

Be sure to check back Monday for our DVD review buffet (and bring your appetites)!

Have a great weekend!

9/15/05

I'm sorry to say that there's more sad news to report today. Director Robert Wise has died, thankfully at the ripe old age of 91. Over the course of his career, Wise manned the helm of a number of noteworthy films, including The Sound of Music (set for re-release on 11/15 from Fox as a new 40th Anniversary Edition, that features a new anamorphic widescreen transfer and audio commentary with Wise), West Side Story, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Andromeda Strain, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Run Silent Run Deep and many more. He was also the editor on Orson Welles Citizen Kane. I had the good fortune to meet Wise on a number of different occasions over the years, and he was a true gentleman, always with a fascinating story to tell. He'll most certainly be missed.

There's some new DVD release news this afternoon. Disney has officially announced its 2-disc Toy Story 2: Special Edition for 12/26 (SRP $29.99). Video will be presented in high bit rate anamorphic widescreen (1.77:1) mastered directly from the Pixar digital source files, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES surround. Extras will include audio commentary with director John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon and Andrew Stanton, a sneak peek of Cars, outtakes, deleted scenes, 9 behind-the-scenes featurettes (including Who's the Coolest Toy?, Making Toy Story 2, Designing Woody's Past, Making Woody's Roundup, Production Tour, Production Progression, Early Animation Tests, Special Effects and International Scene featurettes), character interviews, a profile of John Lasseter, design gallery slideshows, early storyboards, the film's theatrical trailers and TV spots, a gallery of poster artwork, the Which Toy Are You? and Ponkickles interactive games and the Riders in the Sky music medley.

Disney will also release Sky High on 11/29.

Velocity will debut the critically acclaimed documentary Murderball that same day, with an SRP of $29.99.

In other Fox news, the studio has officially set 11/8 as the wide retail release date for its Space: Above and Beyond - The Complete Series (SRP $49.98). The title is already available on DVD, but only at Best Buy stores until 11/8. Fox has also announced a 2-disc Garfield: The Movie - Purrrfect Collector's Edition for release on 12/13 (SRP $26.98).

Also today, Paramount will release a 4-disc MTV Jackass: The Box Set on 12/6 (we believe it's the complete series). Paramount will also release MacGyver: Season 4 on 12/6, with Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica - The Final Season, Five Pennies and Bad News Bears (the new Billy Bob version) following on 12/13, Four Brothers and The Amazing Race: Season 7 due on 12/20, and Hustle & Flow rounding out the month on 12/27.

We'll be back with more later this afternoon, so stay tuned...

9/14/05

Okay... we're back as promised with more new DVD reviews. Today, you'll find here at The Bits my own in-depth musings on Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Season One (the U.S. version), Touchstone's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Image Entertainment's Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag - IMAX and also Bear Family Records' Target You! Cold War Educational Films from the Golden Age of Homeland Security. As you know, Hitchhiker's Guide streeted yesterday. Target You! is also now available. Battlestar Galactica will arrive in stores next Tuesday (9/20), while Fighter Pilot streets a week later (on 9/27). Enjoy!

In news today, Universal has officially announced the DVD release of The Skeleton Key for 11/15 (SRP $29.98). The DVD will be available in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen video, each with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include over 20 minutes worth of footage not shown in theaters, audio commentary with director Iain Softley and 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (Kate Hudson's Ghost Story, Exploring Voodoo/Hoodoo, Behind the Locked Door: Making The Skeleton Key and Blues in the Bayou).

Our pal Matt over at MusicTAP has learned that Columbia will release a music title on UMD format on 11/8 - The Offspring: Complete Music Video Collection. Fox's Fantastic Four is also due to hit UMD on 12/6. Our UMD Release List has been updated accordingly.

Also today, by way of follow-up on those freezing problems some have been reporting on Fox's Space Above and Beyond: The Complete Series (currently only available at Best Buy stores), Bits reader David S. e-mailed me yesterday to say that he exchanged his defective copy and was able to get one that did in fact work. This seems to suggest that not ALL copies of the set have the freezing problem. So our recommendation is to do what David did and make the swap. Our thanks to David for the information.

We'll have a bunch more DVD reviews for you tomorrow, so stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 9/13/05 - NOON PDT)

We're holding those reviews until tomorrow, because our own Russell Hammond has just checked in with a truly massive update of the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section. Over 430 new cover scans have been added... and we know how much you all like cover art. Our thanks to Russell for his heroic efforts!

Rest assured, we'll be back tomorrow with a TON of new DVD reviews, so be sure to check back then.

And speaking of art, we wanted to mention our new Artist of the Month once more. Denise DesLauriers creates incredibly detailed images on scratchboard, and it's well worth your time to take a moment to check out her work. Click here for her artist page here at The Bits. You can also click here to visit her own website. Enjoy!

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/13/05 - 12:01 AM PDT)

We've got a number of new DVD release announcements to report this morning, so let's get them out of the way early...

First up, Paramount has announced a 3-disc Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection for release on 11/22. A new Gallipoli: Special Collector's Edition has been set to street on 12/13. A number of catalog titles will follow on 12/20, including Ring of Fear, Plunder of the Sun: Special Collector's Edition, Seven Men from Now: Special Collector's Edition, Track of the Cat: Special Collector's Edition and Man in the Vault.

Just FYI, Paramount's informed us that their 11/8 DVD release of Mahogany has been cancelled until further notice. No details were given as to why the title was pulled.

Universal's coughing up a pair of TV releases on 12/6, one old and one new: The Rockford Files: Season One and Law & Order: The Fourth Year.

The Criterion Collection is expected to deliver François Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player (Cat #315) and René Clément's Forbidden Games (#318) in December (specific street dates TBA).

Sony has a new batch of titles set for release on 11/22, including 8MM 2 (in separate R and Unrated versions), Novo, Ringers: Lord of the Fans - Special Edition (on both DVD & UMD), Seinfeld: Season 5, Seinfeld: Season 6 and a Seinfeld: Seasons 5 & 6 Gift Set (which includes a handwritten script and a collectible puffy shirt).

Speaking of Sony, the studio has informed us that their 11/15 UMD release of Stealth will be a combo disc that will also include a PSP game title - Wipeout Pure: Stealth Edition. SRP will be $39.95.

Finally, Anchor Bay Entertainment will release a pair of Bruce Campbell titles on 10/4, including Man with the Screaming Brain and Alien Apocalypse. For you zombie film fans, they'll release Day of the Dead 2: Contagium on 10/18. Better yet, look for the studio's Divimax release of George Romero's Zombi on 10/25. Zombi is, of course, the rare 118-minute Italian cut of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, the re-editing of which was supervised by Dario Argento (Argento's version omits the humor and emphasizes action).

Here's a peek at the cover art for Paramount's Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection and Gallipoli: Special Collector's Edition, along with Touchstone's Dark Water: Unrated Version(12/26)...

Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated CollectionGallipoli: Special Collector's EditionDark Water: Unrated Version

Around the Net today, our friend Dave Lambert over at the always excellent TVShowsonDVD.com website has posted a good editorial on the latest complicating factor in the looming Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD format war. It's well worth a read, so don't miss it.

And we hear tell that there's strange things afoot over at the official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy website today (and today only). This is, of course, the official street date for the DVD. Watch for our review very soon.

Back later with more. Stay tuned...

9/12/05

Boy... it's good to have football season back again, isn't it? Some of you may not care, but I'm sure you NFL fans know exactly what I'm talking about. Even though my Vikings lost this weekend, there's just something about this time of year that wouldn't be the same without football. I surely do love it.

Okay... we've been threatening you with new DVD reviews lately. Today, we begin to make good on that, by posting in-depth reviews of three new titles on disc. You'll find my thoughts on Paramount's Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Third Season (due to street on 9/27). Also available today are Peter Schorn's review of Shout! Factory's Undeclared: The Complete Series and Adam Jones' take on Sony's Ghostbusters 1 & 2: Double Feature Gift Set (both now available). We'll be back tomorrow with more new reviews, including a new column by Adam Jahnke that's packed silly with 'em. Don't miss it.

Some news from around the Net today... Buena Vista and Dimension have finally revealed that the Frank Miller's Sin City: Recut & Extended Edition will street on 12/13 (SRP $39.99). The 2-disc set will feature the theatrical version of the film along with a new 147-minute extended cut, both in anamorphic widescreen video (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio. Extras are set to include audio commentary with director Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, a second commentary with Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, a third commentary containing the Austin Premiere crowd's reaction, 12 behind-the-scenes featurettes (15-Minute Film School with Robert Rodriguez, The Movie in High-Speed Green Screen, The Long Take: 17 Uninterrupted Minutes of Tarantino's Segment, Sin City Night at Antones: Filmmakers, Cast & Crew Party, 10-Minute Cooking School with Robert Rodriguez, A Hard Top with a Decent Engine: The Cars of Sin City, Making the Monsters: Special Effects Make-up, Trench Coats and Fish Nets: The Costumes of Sin City, Booze, Broads & Guns: The Props of Sin City, How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film, Giving the Characters Life: Casting the Film and Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino), the film's teaser and theatrical trailers, an outtakes reel, the Sin-Chroni-City interactive game and the complete Sin City: The Hard Goodbye graphic novel. Now THAT'S the DVD fans have been waiting for.

More Buena Vista-related news: The tentative release date for Miramax's Chicago: The Razzle-Dazzle Edition has been pushed back to December (it had originally been set for release on 9/13). We're waiting on the exact revised street date from the studio and we'll post it as soon as it comes in. Also, soon to be announced by Disney is Sky High (street date also TBA).

We've been getting a LOT of reports from readers that 20th Century Fox's Best Buy-exclusive Space: Above & Beyond: The Complete Series may be defective. Readers are reporting problems with the playback freezing up during the second episode. We'll post more details when we have them.

In other news today, Channel 4 News in the U.K. ran a feature story yesterday on the forthcoming Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD format war. The TV news piece runs about 6 minutes and it's actually quite a good primer on the current situation. It also features a screen shot of The Digital Bits, noting: "This website warns enthusiasts to stay away until the war is over." You're darned right we do! Click here to visit the Channel 4 site and here to view the report itself (via streaming Windows Media). Our thanks to Bits reader Carl R. for the heads-up on that!

One other note today... consider this Rumor Mill worthy until we get the official word, but sources are telling us that Anchor Bay will release Hellraiser, Dawn of the Dead (the original) and Children of the Corn on UMD format on November 22nd.

Around the site this morning, we've got FOUR new Contests going, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's Ben-Hur: Four-Disc Collector's Edition and Smallville: The Complete Fourth Season, Universal's Carlito's Way: Ultimate Edition, Coal Miner's Daughter: 25th Anniversary Edition, The Deer Hunter: Legacy Series, Las Vegas: Uncut & Uncensored - Season Two, House: Season One and Rumble Fish: Special Edition, and finally Fox's Fever Pitch and NINE great Halloween-themed titles including The Cabinet of Caligari and more.

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 9/9/05 - 4 PM PDT)

One last post for today: We've received a list of the extras you'll find on DreamWorks' just-announced War of the Worlds. The standard editions (SRP $29.99 each) will include the film along with the Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens featurette. The 2-disc Limited Edition (SRP $36.98) will include that, along with Revisiting the Invasion (an introduction by Spielberg), the 4-part Production Diary documentary (2 parts for Filming on the East Coast and 2 parts for Filming on the West Coast), 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (The HG Wells Legacy, Characters: The Family Unit of War of the Worlds, Pre-Visualization and Scoring War of the Worlds), We are Not Alone (closing words by Spielberg), galleries of design artwork and production photos, and the film's theatrical trailers.

Okay... NOW we're done for the week. See you Monday!

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/9/05 - 3 PM PDT)

At long last, DreamWorks has finally announced Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds for 11/22, as expected. The film will be available on DVD in three versions: single-disc anamorphic widescreen and full frame standard editions (SRP $29.99 each) and also a two-disc anamorphic widescreen Limited Edition (no SRP has been set). Audio on all three versions will be English and French Dolby Digital 5.1, and English DTS 5.1. No details on extras have as yet been released.

Here's a look at the cover art for both the regular edition and the Limited Edition of War of the Worlds, along with art for Fox's Fantastic Four (due 12/6), temp art of both versions of Universal's Cinderella Man (also due 12/6) and George Romero's Land of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut (10/18) as well...

War of the WorldsWar of the Worlds: Limited EditionFantastic Four

Cinderella ManCinderella Man: Collector's EditionLand of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut

Speaking of Fantastic Four, the film will be available in dual anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions on DVD from Fox (SRP $29.98 each). Both will include Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio. We're not sure how accurate this is, but according to Fox Home Video's spec sheet, the full frame version will include audio commentary with members of the cast, 3 deleted scenes, a cast featurette, the Making of Fantastic Four featurette, the Fox Movie Channel Presents Fantastic Four: Casting Session and Making a Scene featurettes, music videos for Everything Burns and Come On Come In, a soundtrack TV spot and an Inside Look preview of X-Men 3. The widescreen version includes all of that, plus the film's theatrical trailer and a Marvel Avengers trailer. FYI, we think it's entirely possible that both discs will feature exactly the same extras, and this is just an error on the spec sheet.

Around the Net today, there are some interesting articles worth checking out. Home Media Retailing has posted a story to the effect that while UMD movies for Sony's PSP game system are selling well, there aren't many hit games for the portable platform yet, despite unit sales of more than 2 million since it was first launched in March (however a slew of major PSP game titles ARE expected by the 4th Qtr). They also have a brief story on inexpensive DVD players that are capable of scaling standard 490p video signals up to faux 1080i - a very nice option for those of you with large front or rear projection systems. There's even a quote or two in there from me, although for the record I have a Pioneer player... not a Phillips (a Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi to be exact - hey, I DO have an image to maintain here).

Meanwhile, Video Business also has a story on Sony's PSP game system, highlighting the effort of retailers to push sales of the system (and both game and UMD movie software) this upcoming holiday season. VB's best piece today, however, is an editorial by columnist Paul Sweeting on the various copy-protection schemes that are expected to be employed by the forthcoming Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD high-definition formats. Interestingly, one of the reported reasons that Blu-ray Disc went with a more restrictive copy-protection scheme than just Advanced Access Content System (AACS) is that it only allows for revoking hacked encryption keys on software-based players - not set-top, stand-alone hardware. HD-DVD uses only AACS, while Blu-ray Disc has added the Self-Protecting Digital Content (SPCD) system (which verrifys "the integrity of both the disc and the hardware before playback" and presumably allows the remote disabling of either if said "integrity" is compromised). There are also other content-protection schemes being discussed, including one that would allow future DVD players to recognize watermarks imbedded in the video image of camcorder-pirated theatrical films (and presumably refuse to play burned discs containing such content). It's a fascinating editorial, and it illustrates a concern we've had here at The Bits about these new formats for a while now.

Look... the need for Hollywood to protect its film and TV content from PROFESSIONAL video pirates is undeniable, particularly as better and better quality video is encoded on the discs. But what about your average, well-meaning consumer? Just how intrusive are these measures going to be on the fair use of that content by the rest of us... those of us who AREN'T criminals? That remains to be seen. Also yet to be seen is how willing the studios and manufacturers are going to be to offer consumers guarantees and protections against the excessive or unwarranted use of these copy-protection measures. It's worth being concerned about, lest these new formats turn out to be just another version of Circuit City's Divx, where the industry has as much control over your players and discs as YOU do, even after you've opened your wallets and purchased them. The last thing WE want is yet another scheme where players monitor our viewing habits and report them back to the studios, and where we end up having to rent DVDs from our own purchased collections. Or worse, a system where some of your movie discs (if their encryption keys have been hacked by pirates) can be revoked without your knowledge, so they no longer play normally. In other words, discs you've already paid for and legally own can be made coasters, with no guarantee of replacement, all though no fault of your own. You can bet we'll be watching this issue closely in the months ahead.

Okay... that's all for this week. We're working on a TON of new DVD reviews for next week, so be sure to check back on Monday for the first of those. In the meantime, have a great weekend and stay tuned!

9/8/05

Okay... since we were already working on getting these reviews posted, we figured we might as well get our whole Thursday post up for you nice and early. Hey... sometimes, even WE are able to get ahead of the game. Not often, but every once in a while. ;-)

So... to start with today, Warner Bros has officially announced the DVD release of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for 11/8. Three versions of the film will be available on disc: a standard edition in anamorphic widescreen or full frame (SRP $28.98 each), along with a 2-disc Deluxe Edition in anamorphic widescreen only (SRP $30.97). The widescreen aspect ratio is 1.85:1, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX. Extras on the Deluxe Edition will include 3 featurettes (Becoming Oompa-Loompa, Attack of the Squirrels and Fantastic Mr. Dahl), an Oompa-Loompa Dance tutorial video, 2 interactive games (The Inventing Machine and Search for the Golden Ticket), the film's theatrical trailer "and more."

Here's a look at cover artwork for Charlie, along with a look at Fox's The X-Files: Super Soldiers - Four-Disc Mythology Collection (11/22)...

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory: Deluxe EditionThe X-Files: Super Soldiers - Four-Disc Mythology Collection

We've got some details on the features and extras to be found on Fox's 7-disc 24: Season Four, due to street on 12/6 (SRP $69.98). All 24 episodes will be presented in anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary on 7:00AM-8:00AM (by Joel Surnow and Mary Lynn Rajskub), 12:00PM-1:00PM (by Joseph Hodges and Jon Cassar), 1:00PM-2:00PM (by Kim Raver and Joseph Hodges), 2:00PM-3:00PM (by Stephen Kornish and Peter Lenkov), 3:00PM-4:00PM (by Evan Katz and Shannon Doherty), 4:00PM-5:00PM (by Nestor Serrano and Stephen Kronish), 8:00PM-9:00PM (by Tim Iacofano and Shohreh Aghdashloo), 9:00PM-10:00PM (by Roger Cross and Bryan Spicer), 12:00AM-1:00AM (by Jon Cassar and Sean Callery), 1:00AM-2:00AM (by Paul Gadd and Ken Kobett), 4:00AM-5:00AM (by Matt Michnovetz and Duppy Demetris) and 6:00AM-7:00AM (by Bob Cochran and Scott Powell), some 35 deleted scenes available for viewing in a branched mode within each episode (and also separately with optional audio commentary by John Cassar on Disc Seven), 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (including Breaking Ground: Building the New CTU, Blood on the Tracks, Lock and Load and 24 Conspiracy: Minute One to Minute Twenty-Four), a preview trailer for Season Five, a trailer for 24: The Game, The Longest Day music video and a 24: Season Five Prequel video (shot on location during the production of Season Five, which bridges Season Four and Five). All in all, it sounds like a pretty nice package.

In other news today, we've got a couple of new street dates for you. Consider these Rumor Mill-worthy until official announcements are made, but sources have informed us to expect Sony to release The Cave and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo on 11/29. Just in case you were dying to get your hands on more Deuce on disc.

Speaking of Sony, it seems that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Benjamin Feingold has been doing a little boasting about Blu-ray Disc to Home Media Retailing. To quite Mr. Feingold, “I think in 12 months it's all going to be clear: the combination of Blu-ray and PlayStation 3 machines is going to overwhelm any HD DVD presence and all studios will have to support Blu-ray." Gee... do you sense a little hubris over at Sony these days? Personally, we think they would do well not to count their chickens before they've hatched. Look... on paper, we agree that Blu-ray Disc SEEMS like a superior format to HD-DVD, at least spec-wise. But most early adopters we know aren't exactly excited about the looming prospect of a format war. And as we've noted, there are potential features of Blu-ray Disc (and HD-DVD) that are likely to leave early adopters feeling a little cold (including digital-only output of 1080 video signals and the use of rather draconian copy-protection measures). Also, while it's true that the PS3 is going to be a huge seller in 2006... it's going to sell overwhelmingly to videogamers. And just as the majority of consumers haven't yet adopted high-definition, it's likely that the majority of videogamers couldn't care less about gaming (much less watching movies) in high-definition. That will change over time, but not significantly in the next few years. Making matters worse, a LOT of brick-and-mortar retailers are going to be mighty reluctant to carry movies in four different formats (standard DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray Disc and UMD) on their already space-starved shelves. Some leading retailers may choose not to carry the new HD formats at all. Will Wal-Mart carry both? Unlikely. Sony execs can boast about Blu-ray Domination until the cows come home... but they MAY just be surprised to find that when those cows do finally arrive, early adopters, retailers and consumers at large have already locked them out of the barn.

Now then... how about some reviews? Our own Peter Schorn has checked in today with his thoughts on a trio of new DVD releases. Today you'll find here his thoughts on 20th Century Fox's The Transporter: Special Delivery Edition, Paramount's Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition and Warner Bros' Pirates of Silicon Valley. All are now available in stores. I'm working on several new DVD reviews as well, and we've got a new batch from Adams Jones and Jahnke coming too, so watch for those soon.

Also this morning, we're pleased to bring you Barrie Maxwell's latest edition of Classic Coming Attractions. In this column, Barrie runs down all the latest classic film DVD release announcements. Do check it out.

Elsewhere around The Bits today, we've updated a lot of the DVD format stats that we track (above), including the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers (for the week ending August 12th).

And that's all for now. As always, stay tuned!

9/7/05

We've got a couple of things for you early this afternoon. First up, we'd like to acknowledge the passing of actor Bob Denver, widely known for his role as the title character on TV's classic Gilligan's Island. Thanks for all the laughs, little buddy. Also passing in the last few days is legendary Mississippi blues man R.L. Burnside. Both will be greatly missed.

Now then... some new DVD announcements. As we expected, 20th Century Fox has announced the DVD release of Fantastic Four for 12/6. No other details are available yet, but the street date is confirmed. Other titles announced by the studio for 12/6 include 24: Season Four, The Dark Corner, Garfield & Friends: Volume 5, Kiss of Death (1947), M*A*S*H: The Complete Ninth Season, Pet Alien: The Lighter Side of Doom and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950). Following on 12/13 are Black Widow, Puddle Cruiser and Reba: Season Two, with The Shield: Season Four due on 12/27.

In other news, Universal has announced Chicago Boricua for 12/27.

Buena Vista has revealed a pair of new Touchstone titles for January, including a Dead Poets Society: 15th Anniversary Special Edition and a Good Morning Vietnam: Special Edition (both 1/17 - SRP $19.99). Disney's Bambi II has also been announced for 2/7, with a new Lady and the Tramp: Special Edition following on 2/28.

Finally, HBO will release a slate of documentary titles on 1/3, including Death in Gaza, A Father... a Son... Once upon a Time in Hollywood, Left of the Dial, Naked World, Soldiers in the Army of God and Twist of Faith.

There's some UMD news today as well: Fox will release Bratz Rock Angelz on 12/27. Buena Vista has set UMD versions of The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Crow for 10/25, with The Incredibles, Clerks and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl following on 11/15. Our UMD Release List has been updated accordingly.

Here's a look at cover artwork for DreamWorks' Madagascar (11/15) and Disney's Tarzan: Special Edition (10/18), Lady and the Tramp: Special Edition (2/28) and The Emperor's New Groove: The New Groove Edition (10/25), as well as Touchstone's Dead Poets Society: 15th Anniversary Special Edition and Good Morning Vietnam: Special Edition...

MadagascarTarzan: Special EditionLady and the Tramp: Special Edition

The Emperor's New Groove: The New Groove EditionDead Poets Society: 15th Anniversary Special EditionGood Morning Vietnam: Special Edition

Back with some new DVD reviews in a little while. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/6/05 - 11:30 AM PDT)

Here's an interesting development: Samsung has announced that if the Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD camps fail to compromise on a unified format, it will release a combo player in 2006 capable of playing both formats. Says Samsung's Choi Gee-sung, "We would welcome a unified standard but if this doesn't come, which looks likely, we'll bring a unified solution to market. It won't be simple but you'll see our solution in the coming year. Consumers will be too confused otherwise." That's actually pretty admirable, given that Samsung is officially a Blu-ray Disc supporter, and we'd be surprised if at least one or two other manufacturers didn't follow suit eventually. The problem, of course, is that not many home theater enthusiasts or early adopters are likely to spend over $1,000 for a Samsung player. Ideally, they'll be looking for Sony and Pioneer models... maybe Toshiba. And while early Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD players are likely to SRP for about $1,000, you'd have to expect that ANY combo player capable of handling both formats would initially cost WAY over that price point. Still, as I said, it's an interesting development.

And here's another one too: Toshiba has announced that it is officially delaying the U.S. launch of HD-DVD until "about the same time" as Blu-ray Disc launches in early 2006. However, it expects to street the format hardware in Japan in late 2005 as originally planned. There's a good report on this over at Red Herring, which features some very interesting comments from Mark Knox, an advisor to the HD-DVD promotion division at Toshiba. It's DEFINITELY worth a read, so don't miss it.

We've got a number of new DVD reviews coming for tomorrow, so stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/6/05 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Well... we've received an official update from Paramount and 20th Century Fox with details about the forthcoming special edition DVD re-issue of Titanic, set for release on 10/25 in the U.S. (with international release dates to follow). Some of you will be happy, while others will likely be less so. We've confirmed now that there will be THREE different DVD versions available... but not to everyone. All three versions will include anamorphic widescreen video mastered from a new high-definition transfer, along with both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES audio options. Here's the breakdown of the three versions, along with specific details on the extras set to be included with each:

The Titanic: 2-Disc Special Edition will be available in Europe, Australia and Latin America (from 20th Century Fox). This set will include the film itself, along with a 9-minute alternate ending, some 50 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage and featurettes accessible via a branched viewing option during the film, and 3 newly-recorded audio commentary tracks featuring director James Cameron, members of the cast and crew, and historians talking about the actual events.

The Titanic: 3-Disc Special Collector's Edition will be available in the U.S., Japan and Korea (from Paramount in the U.S. and 20th Century Fox elsewhere). It will include the film itself and ALL of the 2-Disc Special Edition's bonus features, along with over 45 minutes of "newly-finished" deleted scenes (complete with final, feature-quality visual effects), several production and special effects featurettes looking at various aspects of the making of the film, and the complete 43-minute Titanic: Breaking New Ground TV special on the making of the film.

Finally, the Titanic: 4-Disc Deluxe Collector's Edition will be available in Europe, Australia and Latin America (from 20th Century Fox). It will include the film itself and ALL of the extras in the 2-Disc Special Edition and 3-Disc Special Collector's Edition, along with HBO's First Look special on the making of the film (entitled Titanic: The Heart of the Ocean), 3 short Titanic parodies and a gallery of trailers for the film (including some never before seen).

Unfortunately, we're very sorry to say that Ed Marsh's highly-anticipated, feature-length documentary on the making of the film, which was announced at Paramount and Fox's original press event for the DVD release, will NOT be included on any version. This is unofficial, but we've learned from our sources that it was apparently killed by none other than Cameron himself. We can only presume that some of it at least will survive in the form of the behind-the-scenes featurettes now confirmed for the 3 and 4-disc sets, but the exact number of (and details about) these featurettes is unfortunately still to be announced. There's also no confirmation yet on whether Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio have recorded audio commentary for the DVD release (although at the time of the original press conference, both had reportedly expressed a willingness to participate if their scheduled permitted). We SUSPECT (but this is not official) that this means either or both are still yet to be recorded (our experience is that when such details are left out of official announcements, it's generally because they're still up in the air).

So there you have it. That's the latest, official update on Titanic. We'll try to provide you with additional details as they come in. Let the fan fallout begin.

In other news this morning, I wanted to let you all know that Lucasfilm has officially announced the DVD release of Star Wars: Clone Wars - Volume Two on 12/6 (as predicted in The Rumor Mill a couple months back). The disc will include all five 12-minute chapters in anamorphic widescreen video, with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio. Extras will include the Connecting the Dots behind-the-scenes featurette, 2 galleries of animation concept art, storyboards and sketches, trailers for LucasArts' upcoming Star Wars: Empire at War and Star Wars: Battlefront II video games and an Xbox-playable demo of Battlefront II featuring 2 complete levels from the game.

Here's a look at cover art for Star Wars: Clone Wars - Volume Two, along with Sony's Christmas with the Kranks (11/8) and MGM's 2-disc Battle of Britain: Collector's Edition (10/25)...

Star Wars: Clone Wars - Volume TwoChristmas with the KranksBattle of Britain: Collector's Edition

By the way, after all my comments about the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina yesterday (click here and scroll down a little for that), I neglected to mention the impact of the disaster on pet owners in the region. In addition to the links we've posted (at the top of The Bits' home page) to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, we've now added a link to The Humane Society, where you can make donations to help rescue stranded or abandoned animals in the region. After all, as any good pet owner knows... animals are people too.

Back with more later. Stay tuned...

9/5/05

Well, as you can imagine with the long holiday weekend, and given the ongoing tragedy, there's not a lot of new DVD news to report today. But let's quickly cover what there is...

First up, Universal has announced a $26.98 SRP-ed Jurassic Park Adventure Pack for 11/29 (containing the previously released Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III DVDs), and Frankie & Johnny Are Married for 12/20.

Meanwhile, Sony (and in a few cases Sony for MGM) has announced The Edukators, Jane Goodall: Return to Gombe, Stealth (in anamorphic widescreen DVD, full frame DVD and UMD versions), The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Fun with the Cat, Fantasy Island: The First Season, The Johnny Cash Show Collection, Stargate Atlantis: Season 1, Hard Promises, Love at Stake, Pray TV, The Heavenly Kid, O.C. and Stiggs, Rikky and Pete and a Monty Python Box Set (including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, And Now for Something Completely Different and Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) all for release on 11/15.

Paramount has announced the DVD release of Four Brothers for 12/20.

And 20th Century Fox has finally unveiled cover artwork for their Alien Vs. Predator Unrated Collector's Edition (11/22), along with the Oklahoma! 50th Anniversary Edition and The Sound of Music 40th Anniversary Edition (both 11/15)...

Alien Vs. Predator Unrated Collector's EditionOklahoma! 50th Anniversary EditionThe Sound of Music 40th Anniversary Edition

Here at the site today, I wanted to let you all know that we have a new Artist of the Month for September... Denise DesLauriers. Denise works in the medium of scratchboard, and her work is pretty spectacular. It's richly detailed, often vibrantly hued and evocative. I encourage you all to take a moment to check it out.

And around the Net, CNN recently posted a story about the looming high-definition disc format war. It confirms a bit of news a LOT of you out there are going to really hate (and which the industry isn't keen on you knowing at the moment): Blu-ray Disc players (and possibly HD-DVD players as well) may need to be connected to a phone line or some kind of broadband Internet connection (like - dare we say it? - Circuit City's now defunct Divx players of old). This connection would allow the Hollywood studios and the player manufacturers to have an unwanted degree of control over the players and movies in your home, even after you've paid for them. For example, your Blu-ray Disc player will be able report certain kinds of activity back to the manufacturer (and possibly the studios as well), who will in turn have the ability to remotely disable your player. This is part of an effort to protect the digital content rights of the Hollywood studios. There's the strong potential in this plan, however, for a decided lack of protection for the rights of consumers. We'll have more to say on this subject in the next couple of weeks, you can be sure.

Finally today, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. It's been incredibly sobering and difficult to watch all the coverage over the last week - coverage of ruined homes, destroyed cities and lives torn apart. Here we are, just a week away from the 4th anniversary of 9/11, and we're confronted by a disaster of far more epic proportions. It's a disaster caused by Nature to be sure, but it's also a man-made disaster. And I find myself incredibly angry over the whole thing (and YOU should be too), because while there will always been things like hurricanes to deal with that we simply can't prevent, the fact remains that plenty could and SHOULD have been done to prevent the destruction and death toll from reaching the magnitude that it surely has (and which will be revealed fully in the weeks and months ahead). You're going to hear a lot of excuses made (I've already heard WAY more than my fill), but make absolutely no mistake about it: Anyone who says that we couldn't have predicted that things could get this bad for New Orleans is either lying to cover their ass, or just negligently ignorant. For many years scientists and local and Federal officials have known this could happen (click here for a 5-part New Orleans newspaper report from 2002, here to listen to a disturbing 2-part NPR audio report from 2002, here to see a January 2005 NOVA report on this subject and here for a U.S. News story from earlier this year - just a scant few of the MANY places the threat has been reported in recent years alone). Naturally, for as many years, political back-biting, lack of will and classic short-sightedness have prevented local and Federal officials from doing much of anything substantial about it. As a result of this failure of leadership, as evidenced by the mistakes made (and slow response times seen) this past week and despite billions of dollars spent on supposedly improving national security, it seems that our collective ability to deal with natural and man-made disasters is actually WORSE that it was before 9/11, not better (click here for more on that). All this despite the absolutely heroic and ongoing efforts of under-funded first responders. Now, thousands of lives have likely been lost - the majority of them probably poor, elderly and infirm New Orleans residents who were asleep in their beds, believing the worst danger had passed, as the levees broke and water flooded into their homes. Many that survived the actual flood, perished in the days that followed when help was slow to arrive. As in any disaster, crisis or conflict, it's the poor who always seem to bear the worst burdens. And hundreds of thousands of Americans of ALL economic levels in the region (maybe as many as a million or more) have lost their homes, and possibly their jobs as well. The word disaster doesn't even begin to cover this.

Here at The Bits, our hearts go out to all those of you who have been impacted by this tragedy. We know that we have many readers who live in the area, and many more elsewhere with friends and family in the devastated region. We'd like to encourage ALL of our readers to give whatever you can to the relief effort, which will surely be massive. Those affected will need our help for years, so please be generous in whatever ways you can. We've got links for you to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army to make donations. We're also posted linked buttons at the top of The Bits home page to both relief organizations, which we intend to leave up for a LONG time. And you can click here to go to CNN's "help center" page, which offers a long list of weblinks, phone numbers and other resources - everything you need to help and get involved. PLEASE get involved somehow.

Once again, for all those of you in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and other affected areas, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

8/31/05

We've got some interesting new DVD announcements for you today, so let's get right to them.

First up, Paramount has revealed their Beavis & Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection - Volume 1 for release on 11/8. No word on extras yet on the 3-disc set. Paramount will also release The Honeymooners (2005) on 11/22.

New Line will release 50 Cent: Refuse to Die on 11/8, with dual R and Unrated versions of Havoc following on 11/29.

HBO has set The Christmas Wife for release on 11/8.

Warner's announced a new Kong title for 11/22 - Kong: King of Atlantis (SRP $19.98). They have a 3-disc Warner Bros. Holiday Collection due on 11/8 (SRP $29.98), which will include Boys Town (1938), Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and A Christmas Carol (1938). Each of these titles will also be available separately. The studio has also announced a new slate of TV titles for December, including The West Wing: The Complete Fifth Season and Full House: The Complete Second Season (both 12/6), The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Fifth Season and The Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season (both 12/13) and also ER: The Complete Fourth Season (12/20).

Finally, Sony has announced a solid batch of new releases for 11/8, including a Jumanji: Deluxe Edition (2-discs), Blizzard, Christmas with the Kranks, Yes, Jeopardy: An Inside Look at America's Favorite Quiz Show!, The Partridge Family: The Complete Second Season (3 discs), Burn!, The Fugitive Kind, The Missouri Breaks, A Dry White Season and Rock-A-Doodle. They've announced Christmas with the Kranks and Jumanji for the PSP (UMD) on 11/8 as well.

Around the site today, our own Peter Schorn pays his dues with a review of Warner's The O.C.: The Complete Second Season on DVD. Do check it out. ;-)

And we'll leave you today with a look at a little more new upcoming DVD cover artwork. Here's Paramount's Airplane! "Don't Call Me Shirley!" Edition (11/15) and Beavis & Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection - Volume 1, along with final art for Universal's The Big Lebowski: Collector's Edition (10/18 - not to be confused with the Achiever's Edition gift set)...

Airplane! "DonBeavis & Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection - Volume 1The Big Lebowski: Collector's Edition

We're going to be dark here at The Bits tomorrow and Friday, as Sarah and I take a little time to enoff joy our 15th wedding anniversary. You've gotta have priorities, you know? But we'll be back on Monday with all the latest news and more.

See you then!

(LATE UPDATE - 8/30/05 - 5 PM PDT)

We've got updated street dates for you from our industry sources for DreamWorks' War of the Worlds and Warner's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, both titles which are yet to be officially announced. You'll find that in The Rumor Mill this afternoon.

Also today, we promised you a report on Universal's DVD release event for The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary Edition, which Sarah and I attended last night. Held at the Mann Chinese Theater complex in Hollywood, the event was produced in conjunction with the Hollywood's Master Storytellers program. The packed theater audience was treated to a 45-minute panel discussion, hosted by Gordon Meyer, which was simulcast via satellite to over 80 Regal Theater locations across the country. On hand to participate in the discussion were director John Landis, former Universal Studios head of production Thom Mount and various members of the film's cast, including the legendary James Brown (the Reverend Cleophus James), Steve "The Colonel" Cropper (himself) and Henry Gibson (the head of the Illinois Nazis). Elwood Blues himself, Dan Aykroyd, participated live via satellite from Toronto, Canada. Also on hand as special guests were Charles Napier (Tucker McElroy of The Good Old Boys), Steven Williams (Trooper Mount) and George Folsey Jr. (the film's editor).

The Blues Brothers DVD event

The discussion was lively and entertaining, with everyone recounting their stories of the film's production. Topics included how the Blues Brothers first came together as a musical act, how the band was assembled, how the idea to make a film based upon the popular Saturday Night Live characters came to be, how the film's story was developed from Aykroyd's original 300-page script (which he submitted in a phone book cover as a joke), the film's stuntwork, its ever-increasing budget and much more. There were several particularly entertaining moments when the panelists described their memories of the late John Belushi. Gibson, in particular, told a funny story about a time during the filming in Chicago when Belushi suggested to Landis that they should try to get the Pope to make a cameo in the film (the Pope was scheduled to visit the city during the production). And he was serious!

When the panel concluded, there was a brief intermission, after which all 80+ theaters screened the original theatrical version of The Blues Brothers. Some of the guests stayed to watch the film and some didn't, but the crowd was lively and clearly thrilled with the experience.

Sarah took a number of great pictures from the event, which you can view here. We've also got a number of streaming video clips from the event for you to check out (just click the links to view them):

Clip 1 - Dan Aykroyd talks the band's first live performance (Windows Media/Quicktime)
Clip 2 - Dan Aykroyd talks about how The Blues Brothers came to be (Windows Media/Quicktime)
Clip 3 - John Landis complements James Brown (Windows Media/Quicktime)
Clip 4 - Dan Aykroyd tells a funny story about John Belushi (Windows Media/Quicktime)
Clip 5 - John Landis on John Belushi and the film (Windows Media/Quicktime)

A couple of interesting notes: In speaking briefly with Landis before the panel, I was able to learn that the extended version of the film (included on both this and the original DVD release) was created with footage culled from the Pickwick Theatre print that had previously been thought lost (it was apparently found prior to the original DVD release, having been kept for years by the theater owner's son!). However, some 20 minutes of footage from the original "roadshow" version of the film remain missing and are believed lost. In any case, even though this footage is MIA, I confirmed that Landis DOES still have the mixed audio masters for the musical numbers that were deleted from the film, including Sink the Bismarck. As we talked, Landis quickly realized that he SHOULD have made them available to Universal for inclusion on THIS DVD release. "Well... they'll have to be on the 30th Anniversary, I guess," he said with a good humored, apologetic smile. Ah well.

In the meantime, if you would rather NOT wait until 2010, we've got a zip file available for download here at The Bits that features high-quality MP3 versions of The Blues Brothers performing Sink the Bismarck, as well as a pair of unreleased Murph and The Magic Tones tracks that were recorded for the film. Be sure to enjoy that, along with our complete review of the new DVD release, which is available in stores today.

Okay... that's all for now. We'll be back early tomorrow morning with that O.C. DVD review and more. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 8/30/05 - 12:01 AM PDT)

We've got a couple things for you early this morning, and then we'll be back later today with more on that Blues Brothers event last night in Hollywood, as well as a review.

First up, Criterion has officially announced the DVD release of Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (cat #314), Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu (#309), Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Tales of Hoffmann (#317) and a long-awaited favorite of ours here at The Bits, Akira Kurosawa's Ran (#316). All are set to arrive in stores in November (exact street dates TBA).

Ran (SRP $39.95) will be a 2-disc set containing the restored film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) from a new HD transfer, audio commentary by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince, an appreciation of the film by director Sidney Lumet (Network, Dog Day Afternoon), the 74-minute film A.K. by director Chris Marker (La jetée, Sans soleil) examining the making of Ran, the 34-minute Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create documentary on the making of Ran (created as part of the Toho Masterworks series), the 35-minute video Image: Kurosawa's Continuity reconstructing Ran through Akira Kurosawa's paintings and sketches, a new video interview with actor Tatsuya Nakadai, the film's original theatrical trailer, a new essay by film critic Michael Wilmington, new and improved English subtitle translation and more. Nice.

Two things that go great together: Akira Kurosawa and Criterion DVD.

In other news today, there's a story at the excellent Red Herring technology website in which Toshiba is claiming that Sony and others in the Blu-ray Disc camp are simply unwilling to compromise with Toshiba on a unification of HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Toshiba reportedly is open to working out a compromise that would merge the two specs, while the Sony group basically just wants HD-DVD to back down and let Blu-ray Disc be the only format on the block. Frankly, I suspect this isn't just Toshiba posturing. I think it's probably true. Blu-ray seems to have the momentum at the moment, and I think there's the feeling in the Blu-ray camp that the PlayStation 3 is going to be the deal breaker if there is a format war. In our opinion, however, Sony and the Blu-ray Disc camp would do well NOT to count their chickens before they're hatched. Why? Well, let me explain...

For reasons of digital copy protection, BOTH HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc are likely going to allow full 1080 high-definition resolution video signals to be passed ONLY through digital (read: protected) HDMI connections, and NOT analog component connections. Toshiba has already privately admitted this, but Sony has not. By doing this, BOTH formats are basically shutting themselves out of about 80% of the early adopter market - a HUGE mistake that could end this format war almost before it's begun. Why? Because it's early adopters who are likely going to make or break either format - they're the folks who WANT high-definition movies on disc the most. And most early adopters purchased their HDTVs in the first year or two that they were available (that is, after all, WHY they call them early adopters - they like to be the first on the block to buy new technology). What that means is that most early adopters have HDTVs that ONLY come with analog component HD inputs - not HDMI (or even DVI).

There's an expression that comes to mind here: "You don't bite the hand that feeds you." BOTH Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD are quietly planning to do just that. Which means that not only is this format war ugly, unnecessary and embarrassing for the consumer electronics industry, it's also gone well beyond being stupid. You get the feeling that Moe, Larry and Curly could have figured out a better plan. Hell, Curly Joe and Shemp alone could have worked out a compromise by now.

Ugh.

One last note this morning: A LOT of you have been e-mailing us asking about our Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Four news from yesterday. Specifically, people are asking, "How can there be a Volume Four when there were only 85 episodes produced, all of which are already available on the previous three volumes?" Turns out that the release's COMPLETE title is: Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Four (From the New Batman Adventures). Here's Warner's description of the release which should help explain things better: "In the hit show that continues the Batman storyline from the Emmy-winning Batman: The Animated Series, two years have passed and Batman still protects the streets of Gotham City from the demented criminals that inhabit its dark alleys. But irreconcilable differences with Dick Grayson lead to the collapse of the Batman/Robin crimefighting duo and to the birth of Gotham's new hero Nightwing. Batgirl fights at Batman's side, and a new Robin takes flight after Batman's chance encounter with young Tim Drake. In these 24 thrilling episodes, the Gotham Knights face their worst enemies - Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze and many more - in a comprehensive 4-disc set that completes the Batman animated saga!" So there you go. Hope that clears things up.

By the way, addressing some other popular reader questions: No, there's nothing new yet on David Lynch's Dune, a U.S. release of Mike Hodges' Flash Gordon, or a decent special edition of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. But believe me, we'll let you know the moment there's anything new (and reliable) to report on any of them. Look on the bright side: at least Paramount's definitely working on Twin Peaks: Season Two for next year. Now if they'd just get around to Star Trek: The Animated Series...

Here's a little more cover art for you... Warner's Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Four (From the New Batman Adventures) and Superman: The Animated Series - Volume Two (both due 12/6) and Criterion's Ran (street date TBA)...

Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Four (From the New Batman Adventures)Superman: The Animated Series - Volume TwoRan (Criterion)

Back later with more enlightened soapbox ravings. Stay tuned...

8/29/05

Morning, everyone! We've got a couple of interesting things to report today.

First up, Warner Bros. has announced more TV animated DVDs. On 12/6, look for the studio to release Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Four (4 discs), Superman: The Animated Series - Volume Two (2 discs) and the Thundercats: Season One, Volume Two box set (6 discs).

Warner will also release ER: The Complete Fourth Season on 12/20.

In other news, Paramount has announced an Airplane! "Don't Call Me Shirley!" Edition for 11/15. There's no word yet on extras on the single-disc release. Other titles newly announced by the studio include Comedy Central's Drawn Together: Season One on 10/4, Mad Hot Ballroom on 10/18 and Lewis Milestone's noir classic The Strange Love of Martha Ivers on 10/25.

Buena Vista has confirmed the release of Touchstone's Dark Water: Unrated Edition on 12/26 (SRP $29.99).

Buena Vista is also giving retailer Wal-Mart a Disney animated exclusive - the straight-to-video Three Wise Men on 11/1 (SRP $19.99). You can read more here at Video Business.

Speaking of retailer exclusives... our own Russell Hammond has word on a number of exclusive bonus DVDs and extras that are available (or will be available) with recent and upcoming releases at specific chains. Here's a list he compiled:

Alexander - Exclusive Wal-Mart Bonus DVD - includes the Becoming Alexander 47-minute documentary that looks at how Colin Farrell transformed himself into Alexander.

Cinderella - Exclusive Wal-Mart Bonus CD - includes 10 favorite Disney classic songs from Aladdin, Cinderella, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and more.

Crash - Exclusive Best Buy Bonus DVD - includes an introduction by writer/director Paul Haggis, storyboard comparisons, script-to-screen comparisons and a music montage.

Lost: Season One - Exclusive Best Buy Bonus DVD - includes the 43-minute Lost Journeys episode, the Flashbacks & Mythology mini-documentary that explores the stories and storytelling methods of the show and 2 Lost: On Location behind-the-scenes featurettes (White Rabbit and The Moth).

The Lost Chronicles: The Official Companion Book - Exclusive Bonus DVD - includes an hour of unaired scenes from the show. The book is available widely at all major book retailers.

Monster-in-Law - Exclusive Wal-Mart Bonus CD - includes more music from the film.

The Ring Two - Exclusive Wal-Mart Bonus DVD - includes The Creepiest Moments of Them All! (selected scares from The Ring Two, The Ring and the Japanese Ringu Anthology), Things That Go Bump on the Set! (cast and crew talk about the eerie experiences while filming), Lights, Camera, Suspense! (director Hideo Nakata talks about creating suspense with his film techniques) and From Ringu 2 to The Ring Two! (on how the Japanese script was adapted and developed for Western audiences).

Sahara - Exclusive Best Buy Bonus DVD - includes The Making of the Camel Chase Scene featurette, 2 animatics sequences and 3 storyboard-to-movie comparisons.

Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition - Exclusive Best Buy Bobblehead - buy the DVD and get a free Chris Farley bobblehead.

The Wedding Date - Exclusive Wal-Mart Bonus CD - includes 11 "timeless love songs interpreted by giant vocal jazz artists."

Whew! That's a LOT of exclusive stuff, and it's enough to drive some DVD fans crazy. Ah well.

Time for some music news: If we have any Talking Heads fans in the house, Matt over at our MusicTAP affiliate has some news that should get your heart racing. It seems that Rhino and Warner/Sire will be releasing nearly the entire Heads catalog in DualDisc on 10/4, with the audio on the DVD side in advanced resolution DVD-Audio format. There's also a TON of rare bonus material to be included (click on the link and slide down the page for a complete list). As a longtime Heads head, I find this to be very cool news.

Finally this morning (our last news item), there's confirmation from 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm that the release of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, certain to be one of the biggest sellers of the year, will be DVD only. There will be no VHS version released. You can read more at Video Business. It's just one more sign that VHS is soon to be an ex-format.

Around the site today, we've now got NINE Contests going, giving each of you the chance to win copies of Universal's The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary Edition and Emergency: Season One, Ryko's I Was a Zombie for the FBI, Touchstone's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (including a copy of the Douglas Adams book and a froopy towel!), Warner's Knowing Me, Knowing You, Evel Knievel and Pirates of Silicon Valley, several titles from 20th Century Fox (including Garfield and Friends: Volume 4, Strawberry Shortcake, a trio of Goosebumps DVDs, Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior and The Shirley Temple Collection), Paramount's Schultze Gets the Blues and the Capital Entertainment contest (continued from last week) for Punk: Attitude and Oliver's Twist 2. The contests will run for TWO WEEKS, until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, September 11th. Good luck!

We'll be back tomorrow with a review of Warner's The O.C.: The Complete Second Season, along with a report on Universal's Blues Brothers DVD release event tonight in L.A. (simulcast via satellite to movies theaters around the U.S.).

Stay tuned...


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